Published On: January 1st, 2024Categories: Retirees, Best Of ListsTags: , , , , , , , , ,

International Living’s 2024 Best Retirement Destinations

International Living’s 2024 Best Retirement Destinations

International Living, the largest website for Americans moving abroad, has released its 33rd annual report of the world’s best places to retire. The report assesses safety, value, and quality of life to deliver a top 10 list of countries where a senior couple can live a comfortable life on as little as $2,000/month.

Retirement Abroad is Growing in Popularity

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We asked Executive Editor Jen Stevens if more Americans were considering retiring overseas; she said that International Living has seen several indications that they are. The first is an uptick in live events: their 2023 “Go Overseas Bootcamp” was their largest ever, and their upcoming “Fast Track Europe” event sold out in record time. 

The second is data from the Social Security Administration, who reports that more people are receiving their benefits overseas: 659,511 in 2017 vs. 714,760 in 2023. Of course, many seniors who retire abroad continue to collect their benefits in bank accounts in the States.

Costa Rica Tops the List

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These are the top 10 countries International Living recommends for retirement:

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Portugal
  3. Mexico
  4. Panama
  5. Spain
  6. Ecuador
  7. Greece
  8. Malaysia

  9. France
  10. Colombia 

This is the third time that Costa Rica has secured the top spot, owing to the country’s safe, peaceful, and affordable lifestyle, combined with easy-to-secure visas and highly-rated public healthcare.

“Only in Costa Rica can you be at the top of a volcano with big views, an hour later in the cloud forest, an hour later in a pineapple plantation, an hour later on the beach, an hour later by a mountain stream,” says International Living contributor John Michael Arthur. “Costa Rica’s been an expat hot spot for four decades. It’s going strong…and there’s a reason for that.”

International Living also recommends their favorite cities for expats in these countries, and these were their top choices.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

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Tamarindo was once a small coastal village, but now it’s an upscale boomtown. The prices reflect that, but so do the amenities. Tamarindo is located in a Blue Zone, known for increased longevity.

Ojochal, Costa Rica

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A newer highway has made towns like this in southern Costa Rica easier to access, but it’s still remote enough to provide a more authentic lifestyle.

Grecia, Costa Rica

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This quaint town in the Central Valley has a mild climate and low cost of living. It’s less than an hour’s drive to the country’s capital.

Learn more about living in Costa Rica

Lagos, Portugal

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Lagos is a beautiful coastal city in the Algarve region in southern Portugal with a lovely Old Town and harbor. Portugal also came in first for healthcare and climate.

Vilamoura, Portugal

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Vilamoura is an upscale resort community with amenities like golf, beaches, and other amenities, not unlike those that Americans retire to in the U.S. The big difference is the price: a two-bedroom condo can be had here for as little as $900/month.

Tavira, Portugal

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Tavira is a town with loads of charm: cobblestone streets lead to whitewashed houses dotted with blue and white Portuguese tiles, and café culture abounds.

Learn more about living in Portugal

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

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Living in Playa Del Carmen is like being on an eternal vacation. Expats love the Caribbean beaches and share out-of-the-way spots that elude the many tourists.

Querétaro, Mexico

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Santiago de Querétaro is located in central Mexico a few hours from Guadalajara, Lake Chapala, or Mexico City. The city is sophisticated, with beautiful colonial architecture and amazing food.

Lake Chapala, Mexico

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The towns and villages around Lake Chapala in central Mexico are expat havens with endless social activities and opportunities to build community. Retirees concerned about Mexico’s heat love the local springlike weather.

Learn more about living in Mexico

Panama City, Panama

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Panama City is a world-class city with dozens of direct flights to the United States. There are dozens of neighborhoods and lifestyles for expats to choose from. Panama also came in first in the study for visa benefits.

Coronado, Panama

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Coronado offers the best of both worlds in Panama: access to the amenities and healthcare of Panama City while living in an upscale resort neighborhood. 

Boquete, Panama

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American expats have built a local community in Boquete, the highland town where it’s always spring. The quaint village offers an annual flower and coffee festival and is known for its many rainbows.

Learn more about living in Panama

Madrid, Spain

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Splashy Madrid is the largest city on the list with seven million people in the metro area. You’ll find all the amenities you’d expect in a world-class European capital, and even more art and culture than in most.

Denia, Spain

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If the idea of Madrid is overwhelming, Denia is a lovely coastal town between Alicante and Valencia. You can never feel too remote in Spain, though, where trains and trams can deliver you to neighboring towns or the other end of Europe.

Marbella, Spain

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Marbella is one of the most beautiful cities in a country that’s full of them. Located on the Costa del Sol, the city boasts 24 beaches.

Learn more about living in Spain

Cuenca, Ecuador

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Cuenca is known for its warm people and cool weather: hovering between 75° during the day and 50° at night. The sizable city has several thousand American expats.

Vilcabamba, Ecuador

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Vilcabamba is a much smaller town with a much higher percentage of American emigrants. It’s located in the Andes mountains and known for growing coffee and dates. It may also have some of the longevity benefits that the Blue Zones are known for.

Salinas, Ecuador

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If you’d rather work on your tan than your hiking, Salinas is the perfect choice. The beach there is home to a weekly expat get-together, and the town offers great options for housing, transportation, and healthcare.

Learn more about living in Ecuador

Glyfada, Greece

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Glyfada is a stunning beachside suburb of Athens, only 15 minutes away from the capital. About 100,000 residents enjoy this access to both the Aegean Sea and the cosmopolitan city center.

Crete, Greece

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Many expats enjoy life on this large Greek island, where International Living points out the low population density. 

Corfu, Greece

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This island off the coast of northern Greece offers a different lifestyle, with rolling hills that end in sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Many people here speak English, too.

Learn more about living in Greece

Penang Island, Malaysia

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Americans who love this island talk about the blend of cultures and the kind people, along with several excellent English-speaking hospitals. Malaysia also came in first for housing.

Langkawi, Malaysia

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Expats seeking a more remote lifestyle enjoy this archipelago, where super short flights can deliver you back to the mainland. The tropical islands offer a mix of jungles, resorts, and beaches.

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

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For a cooler climate, head to the Cameron Highlands, still named after the British colonies that once settled here. The area is filled with lush farmland and local produce.

Learn more about living in Malaysia

Toulon, France

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Toulon, on the Côte d’Azur, offers a lovely lifestyle with access to the larger cities of Marseille and Nice. International Living notes that a two-bedroom apartment not far from the area’s famed beaches goes for about $847.

Sarlat-la-Canéda, France

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If you’re looking for something more Old World, consider Sarlat-la-Canéda. The medieval town is known for its food and wine, including local black truffles.

Huelgoat, France

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Huelgoat is a picturesque bargain in northwest France. The fishing village offers a peaceful, quintessentially Breton life with houses available under $200,000.

Learn more about living in France

Medellín, Colombia

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Medellín is a large metropolis in the Andes Mountains, called the City of Eternal Spring. People love Medellín for its vibrant culture. Colombia also came in first for cost of living. 

Manizales, Colombia

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Manizales is a large college town with 7+ universities. International Living notes that it’s not the best choice for people with mobility issues, because the city isn’t very walkable. Thankfully, its served by an extensive network of buses.

Pereira, Colombia

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Pereira is a medium-sized city located in a triangle formed by the biggest cities in Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali. UNESCO named the city as the center of the Coffee Cultural Landscape.

Learn more about living in Colombia

Read the Report

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Visit International Living to see the full report, including country scores and lists of the best countries for healthcare, buying a home, getting a visa, and more.

Jen continues the conversation about the International Living report and Americans retiring abroad over on our TikTok channel:

@expatsi @internationalliving ♬ original sound – Jen from Expatsi

Jen Barnett Expatsi headshot
Co-founder at Expatsi | Website | + posts

Jen Barnett is an expat influencer and co-founder of Expatsi, a company that's helped thousands of Americans on their moving abroad journeys. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?

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Jen Barnett Expatsi headshot
Co-founder at Expatsi | Website | + posts

Jen Barnett is an expat influencer and co-founder of Expatsi, a company that's helped thousands of Americans on their moving abroad journeys. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?